CHICAGO — A group of police officers employed by the Chicago Police Department Bureau of Organized Crime previously filed an overtime lawsuit against the agency for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The case failed to settle and is now at the first stages of trial. The case is one in a line of recent suits brought by employees revolving around the use of emails and mobile devices during off-duty hours away from the workplace.
FLSA and Off-Duty Emails
According to the plaintiffs, the Bureau of Organized Crime maintained an unwritten policy mandating that officers must continuously monitor their work-issued smartphones for important communications. Although the plaintiffs allegedly received about 120 emails every day and spent hours on the phone while off-duty, they were never reimbursed for this work time. Therefore, they are seeking back pay and other damages for the Bureau’s failure to properly compensate them with overtime pay for off-duty smartphone use.
In response, the Bureau argued that it issued two written memoranda in 2010 and 2013 that advised officers they were not required to carry their smartphones while off-duty unless they were specifically directed to do so by a supervisor. The city also argued that it did not have an unwritten policy of requiring officers to check their smartphones off-duty without pay and that officers who did so submitted overtime request forms and were duly paid for those overtime work hours.
DOL Interest in Smartphone Use Under FLSA
Last Spring, the Department of Labor, which enforces FLSA, indicated that it will seek input from stakeholders on the topic of smartphone use in the workplace by publishing a request for information. The announcement indicates that DOL is seeking information from stakeholders on the use of technology, including portable electronic devices, by employees away from the workplace and outside of scheduled work hours.
FLSA requires that employers pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked and overtime for all hours worked above 40 hours in a workweek. The time that employees spend working outside the office on mobile devices and computer can be a tricky issue for employers in determining work time under FLSA. Non-exempt employees may claim unpaid wages and overtime for time spent responding to communication on smartphones outside of normal work hours.
If your employer issues you a mobile device and requires you to monitor work communications even after work hours, you may be entitled to back pay and other damages for those unpaid work hours. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel that you have been deprived of your wage rights. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.